The Last Ruler

Troops carry the coffin of Maharaja Kirit Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur in Agartala, capital of the erstwhile princely state of Tripura. (Photo: Bapi Roy Choudhury)

The King is dead. Long live the King!

Maharaja Kirit Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur, the last ruler of the state of Tripura, passed away in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) on Nov. 27, 2006 as a result of cardiac failure. He was 73. He left behind his Maharani, four daughters and the only son — Yubaraj (Crown Prince) Pradyut Kishore.

The body of late Maharaja was brought to Agartala on Nov. 29, and a befitting state funeral took place on the same day. Thousands of mourners gathered at the royal palace at Agartala to pay their last homage to their beloved Maharaja. On the same day, according to the royal tradition, the Yubaraj Pradyut Kishore was formally coronated as the 180th Maharaja of Tripura. This is a mere formality because the erstwhile princely state merged with the republic of India on Oct. 15, 1949 and there is virtually no state left to be ruled. But according to the royal tradition the throne can never be left empty. The institution of kingship remains.

Thousands of mourners throng in front of the Ujjayanta Palace in Agartala. (Photo: Bapi Roy Choudhury)

The Maharaja Kirit Bikram was coronated as Yuvaraj on Dec. 15, 1940 when he was just 7 years old (born on Dec. 13, 1933). His illustrious father Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya died on May 17, 1947, just three months before India's independence. Fourteen-year old Kirit Bikram assumed the charge of the state of Zamindari at Chakla Roshnabad by a royal decree on the same day. The Raj Mata Kanchan Prabha Devi ran the affairs of the state on behalf of the minor ruler as the regent.

As was the desire of the late Maharaja Bir Bikram Manikya, the regent signed the instrument of Accession on Oct. 15, 1949 in order to merge the state of independent Tripura with the Republic of India. According to the provision of the Accession document, Yubaraj Kirit Bikram formally became the Maharaja of Tripura on attaining 21 years of age in 1954. Thus, there is no room for any confusion whether Kirit Bikram was officially declared as Maharaja on not. His status as Maharaja of Tripura was duly recognised as the legal successor to throne of Tripura state by the government of India, even though the state merged with it.

With the abolition if Privy Purse through amendment of the constitution in 1969, the use of honorific prefixes like Raja, Maharaja, Rani, Maharani, Nawab were also prohibited. But in the hearts of the millions of people, the century old reverential addresses of the ex-rulers continue even today. The funeral procession of the late Maharaja Kirit Bikram witnessed an unprecedented mass participation and solidarity which proved beyond doubt that the royal family still enjoys enormous love and reverence of the people.

Funeral procession of Maharaja Kirit Bikram Kishore Manikya
Bahadur. (Photo: Bapi Roy Choudhury)

The newly coronated Maharaja Pradyut Kishore was greeted with thunderous applause immediately after the investiture ceremony at the Royal Palace on Nov. 29. The Manikya Dynasty of Tripura claims their descent from the lunar race of Mahabharata. According to Rajmala, the royal chronicle of Tripura-Maharajas, Yajati was the first ruler of the Dynasty followed by "Druha" and "Tripur." According to genealogy maintained as State Papers by the royal family, Maharaja Kirit Bikram was the 179th descendent of the Manikya Dynasty. Now Maharaja Pradyut Kishore becomes the 180th ruler.

Pradyut Kishore Manikya Bahadur waves at crowd after his coronation. (Photo: Bapi Roy Choudhury)

The late Maharaja was an ardent lover of art and crafts and also had great regard for traditional heritage. He had collections of coins, curios, antiques and extremely valuable historic collections of timeless beauty and grace.

Bikach Chawdhuri is known for his love of the cultural and literary history of Tripura, and has written a number of books on the subject. This article was originally published in the Indigenous Herald.